New program aims to open political doors for young women

Ten young women in New Brunswick will have the opportunity to take part in a new program designed to teach them more about provincial and federal politics, and why they should get involved.

Daughters of the Vote program gives 10 young New Brunswickers opportunity to learn more about politics

Young women from ridings across Canada will meet in Ottawa in March of 2017 for a two-day leadership event encouraging them to get involved in politics. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Ten young women in New Brunswick will have the opportunity to see first hand how provincial and federal politics works, as the national group Equal Voice tries to encourage more women to get involved.

Joanna Everitt, a political science professor at the University of New Brunswick and co-chair of the provincial chapter of Equal Voice, says the new program is an exciting way to mark an important date.

Daughters of the Vote is the name of the new initiative which celebrates the 100th anniversary of women in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan being able to vote in provincial elections.

"It's an important milestone so we are recognizing this by trying to have an event which encourages young women to become more actively involved in politics."

When they do step up and do run for the nomination and do get the nomination they are as successful, if not more successful, than their male peers.- Joanna Everitt

One woman between the ages of 18 and 23 will be chosen from each riding in New Brunswick to take part in a series of workshops and leadership summits to learn more about how the provincial and federal political systems work, and what kind of influence they could have.   

"It gives young women a chance to learn how they can be involved and that individuals really can make a difference and create a better world for themselves and their peers," Everitt said.

No political background or experience is required.

"The key thing is someone who is embedded in their community, who's got strong connections and ties to their community who will be able to go to these events...and then go back to the community and share what they've learned with others."

Young women need role models

As a professor, Everitt spends much of her time with young people and says many find it difficult to make the connection between their own lives and politics.

"They're at a point in their life where they're going to university, they're thinking about jobs, they're looking at getting themselves established and often they don't have a lot of time or energy or interest in what's going on in the political world and yet the political world really does affect young people significantly," she said.

"It affects the type of opportunities that they have, the economy that they live in, whether they have to pay tuition at university, what their career choices are — all kinds of different factors come into play."

Political science professor Joanna Everitt says with few role models young women often don't imagine themselves running for political office and need more encouragement. (UNB)
New Brunswick has one of the lowest percentages of women elected to public office at 16 per cent, compared to about 26 per cent nationally.

Everitt hopes that by introducing young women to female politicians, they will be more likely to see themselves in that role.

"When you don't see people engaged in politics it's sometimes hard to see yourself in that position and so it gives these individuals who participate in this program the opportunity of meeting and seeing other women taking these steps, becoming actively involved and running for political office."

Everitt finds women need more encouragement than men initially to get involved in politics, although they are successful when they do.

"When they do step up and do run for the nomination and do get the nomination they are as successful, if not more successful, than their male peers."

The deadline for women to apply to take part in Daughters of the Vote is June 30.

With files from Information Morning Moncton